Twenty years ago, an enterprising entrepreneur, Leila Faquir, opened a small grocery store in the Socimol neighborhood of Maputo, Mozambique.
It didn’t go the way she thought it would.
Leila, 48, regularly ran out of operational funds, often bought products that her customers weren’t interested in, and too regularly withdrew money from the store for personal use without keeping records. She also worried about losing customers because she couldn’t keep the store well stocked.
“I used to think that there was no need to keep business records as the shop is small, and I’m running it personally,” she reflects.
But as a mother of five – and the main breadwinner for her family – Leila knew she couldn’t afford to let her business fail.
Things had to change.
Turning to Training for a Better Approach to Entrepreneurship
One day, Leila heard about training specifically for women entrepreneurs.
She jumped at the opportunity.
“When I was asked to participate in the training, I saw an opportunity for myself,” she says. “I felt I needed to develop some skills to make my business sustainable.”
In early 2021, Leila joined TechnoServe’s Business Women Connect (BWC) program, a partnership between TechnoServe and the ExxonMobil Foundation focused on increasing the financial literacy and business skills of businesswomen in Mozambique.
Knowing that the training could make her business sustainable and change the lives of her children, Leila began to apply better business practices that have enabled her to more effectively manage her grocery store, such as:
- Accurate recordkeeping
- Providing improved customer service
- Financial planning
“I am now able to separate personal and business money; I no longer use my store’s money for personal use,” she says. “Records have also helped me know my business expenses and minimize unnecessary expenses.”
One of the most transformational lessons for Leila was the training on reinvestment and how to use available resources to improve her business. “After learning about customer service and market research, I decided to add a new section of capulanas, a traditional sarong, and other beauty products in my shop,” she explains. “They have nothing to do with groceries but it’s strategic; my clients don’t have to go a long way to find these products.”
And to help advertise her newly added products, Leila’s sons help make digital advertising flyers for her to share with her contacts through WhatsApp groups and other social networks. “I now relate better to my customers,” she comments. “I have a list of my customers’ contacts that I share my products with.”
Digital Enablement Helps Drive More Customers for Women Entrepreneurs
Leila’s adoption of digital marketing techniques reflects a larger shift to virtual tactics, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, for entrepreneurs across Mozambique.
“The women in the program have become excited about WhatsApp as a business tool,” shares Muhamad Hanif, the BWC program manager. “They’ve started to create their own WhatsApp groups to sell their products and services, and to send reminders to their clients.”
This digital shift affected TechnoServe’s training itself, after social distancing restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic limited in-person training and gatherings. TechnoServe quickly adapted its training methodology to a digital format, which allowed it to continue to provide the training to women entrepreneurs like Leila Faquir in the face of the new emerging challenges due to COVID-19.
To keep its entrepreneurs successful even with digital training, the TechnoServe team applied a three-step framework:
- Understand women entrepreneurs’ needs and how they use technology: At the beginning of the crisis, the BWC team surveyed women’s access to technology and asked them about their pressing business troubles. “We learned that their priorities were different from our normal program curriculum,” Sarah explains. Through the survey, TechnoServe discovered that 70% of the women in the program had smartphones with WhatsApp. Equipped with this knowledge, the team adapted the lessons for delivery via WhatsApp.
- Choose delivery methods that allow for engaging courses that are suitable for women entrepreneurs’ technology access and needs: To ensure women in the program remained engaged, the BWC team designed WhatsApp classes that followed a consistent schedule and interactive structure. TechnoServe split the entrepreneurs into WhatsApp groups with two scheduled training sessions per week. During each session, the lead trainer shared 60 to 90-second videos and simple, concise key messages and images, pausing for discussions, questions, and practice exercises.
- Measure effectiveness with a regular feedback loop: After each session, the BWC team surveyed entrepreneurs on satisfaction with content, methodology, and trainers. Instead of using online surveys that historically had low completion rates, business counselors called a sample of 30 beneficiaries directly to ask questions. This method, along with one-on-one coaching sessions, allowed trainers to get a deeper understanding of entrepreneurs’ class experiences on WhatsApp.
Setting Her Sights on the Next 20 Years
With this entrepreneurship training completed, Leila is now able to measure the performance of her business and set realistic business goals. She realized that her sales improved by over 20%. She’s able to sell $58 on average, up from $35 per day before the training.
And she is now able to pay for her son’s school fees, plaster the wall of her house, and increase her savings by about 20%.
But she’s not done yet.
Leila is covering most of her family’s expenses now – and her next goal is to make sure she can pay school fees for all of her children and set them up for success.
With a more positive attitude and more confidence, Leila now feels she will be able to achieve her goals in life. “Now that I see my shop is a sustainable business and career path, I am dreaming big,” she says. “I have plans to one day do event decorations and employ people around my community.”